First published novel this may be, but it reads like the work of an accomplished novelist. The prose is tight, word choice exact, the whole conveying a sense of India and the people. For insight into India of the 20th century, Gandhi and colonialism, this book is a must read. As an insight into the institute of marriage and human relationships, it presents aspects which offer the reader much to think about. For those who wonder how arranged marriages can work, there are some lovely examples of both successful and unsuccessful ones.
The narrative sprawls between characters and places, yet all these seemingly disparate parts fit together perfectly. I particularly enjoyed the narrator Sweta’s grandparents: the influence of Gandhi on Nanaji and the disdain that his wife, Naneeji, held for Gandhi and his ideas, as well as watching Sweta on her long journey to acceptance and peace with herself and her family. The book spreads across three generations, and yet the author controls and holds all the threads together superbly. The domestic details are another thing to enjoy. India is brought alive through the many descriptions of cooking and cleaning, visiting and eating.
Helpfully the book has an historical appendix which covers many of the details readers might not understand, for example Gandhi’s textile war, American interference in the Congo, or the influence of Malcolm X’s London speech. The details about the India-Pakistan war are extremely helpful and most revealing. The afterword also contains details of resources an interested reader might like to follow up. I shall, and I really enjoyed reading this book, which lingers in the mind and begs to be reread. It’s well worth reading.